EF 1 tornado confirmed in Garyville

GARYVILLE, LA (WVUE) - The National Weather Service confirms and EF-1 tornado touched down in St. John the Baptist Parish Wednesday morning.

"We definitely had an early morning tornado here," said Ken Graham with NWS.

A spokesperson for the Marathon Petroleum Corporation in Garyville said they experienced damage to a cooling water tower that serves part of the refinery, and they had to shut down one of the crude units because they lost power to parts of the facility.

"It looks like mainly metal buildings, metal roofs, blown all over the place," said Graham of the damage to the refinery.

Power crews used chain saws outside of the refinery on Airline Hwy to take apart poles, which were swaying dangerously above the road while pieces of metal dangled from the power lines.

"The tin that you see around us in the power lines and in the trees, and kind of laying around in the grass here, absolutely that was all blown around here from this tornado," said Graham.

Once he declared an EF-1 tornado did in fact touch down, Graham's next step was to determine the exact path the tornado took. His investigation lead him to the community of Edgard.

"By the fire station here is where we have touchdown," said Graham. "So, I think from here it was weak at the beginning, crossed the Mississippi River, and then went into the plant and that's where we saw some of the damage in there. Then, it almost got to 61 and ended."

Though weak to start, the tornado was still able to do damage to the fire station's garage door just as the fire crew was doing exercises with the foam in the early morning.

Luckily, none of the firefighters were hurt, and Graham said a few people at the refinery ended up with just small cuts and bruises.

In all, the EF-1 was a quick forming tornado that incited damage along a two mile path in less than five minutes.

"It pops in there and touches the ground really quick on the radar, and then is off the screen in about four or five minutes, and it's gone so think about that amount of time, it's tough to take a lot of action but that's why you've got to pay attention to the warnings have the weather radio and be ready to go when we issue a warning," said Graham.

A spokesperson for the refinery released a statement saying, "as a result of the severe storm this morning, the Garyville refinery experienced some damage and loss of power to part of the refinery. We are in process of evaluating the damage and assessing operations. We have made notifications to the appropriate local and federal agencies. There has been no offsite impact."

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